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A four step guide for telecom operators to thrive in today’s competitive ecosystem

14 Feb

Most people today carry their opinions, cash, business transactions, and even relationships in their mobile devices — more specifically, in a host of free, ‘over the top’ (OTT) applications, cluttering their smartphones. Sure, life is more convenient than ever. But this oversimplification of human lives has significant implications for telecom operators like you, whose traditional cash cows — mobile voice calls and messaging — now face existential challenges.

According to a study done by Deloitte, it was estimated that 26% of smartphone users in developed markets will make no phone calls in a given week through their wireless carriers. The millennial generation has taken to Communication over Internet protocol (CoIP)–based messaging, social media, video, and voice services. While users still access cellular networks provisioned by their telecom carriers, they prefer messaging and making calls through WhatsApp, Skype, Viber, Facebook, and iMessage.

In fact, London-based research and analytics firm Ovum presents an even grimmer picture. According to their research, the telecom industry will face revenue losses to the tune of $386bn between 2012 and 2018, due to the growing adoption of OTT voice applications. However, the irony is that you need to enhance your network capacity to support the exponential growth in data traffic from these OTT services.

Looking at the status quo, in order to reclaim your status as a trusted communication service provider, you must redefine your value proposition and business model with immediate effect.

Understanding and mapping the new ecosystem

Key drivers behind the dramatic pace of ongoing disruption in the telecom marketplace include:

  • Growth of multiple super-fast, IP-based communication services that have converged data, voice, and video onto a single network, transforming mobile telephony and messaging
  • Increasingly affordable data rates and faster Internet connections
  • Gradual commoditization of smartphones; nobody thinks twice before buying one–it’s not so special anymore!
  • Operating systems including Android and iOS that have contributed to mobile devices getting ‘smarter’, with introduction of more advanced functionalities
  • Growing breed of mobile apps that have become an integral part of consumers’ lives; while OTT solution providers piggyback telecom operators’ network and infrastructure, they do not share their revenues with the latter
  • Massive growth in application programming interfaces (APIs) that enable developers to create Web and mobile apps

Dramatic change in the behavior of consumers, who prefer tapping into OTT apps than using the conventional mobile voice and messaging networks

Propositions to achieve sustained business growth

While top OTT operators have harnessed technology and intuitive user interface design to deliver compelling user experiences, many telcos still run complicated IT systems and application frameworks that hinder agile innovation. Industry heavyweights, in fact, are IT lightweights, relying on external vendors with long development cycles.

So, how can you compete in this fast-changing, hypercompetitive marketplace, and grab consumer mindshare for sustained business growth?

  • Get bundling: It’s all about maximizing revenues while neutralizing the cost advantage associated with OTT services. You can start by bundling data or voice packages with an SMS plan at competitive prices. A case in point being Vodafone U.K., which offered one of Spotify Premium, Sky Sports or Netflix free of cost for six months, as part of its 4G Red packages.
  • Resurrect legacy services: Rebalance tariffs to make conventional voice and messaging more attractive to consumers. For instance, you could look at providing and promoting unlimited SMS plans, to compete with instant messaging apps.
  • Go the Rich Communication Services (RCS) way: DesignRCS for non-smartphone devices such as feature phones and low-cost handsets, eventually opening up the IP communication market far wider–something OTT providers cannot do.
  • Offer your OTT: Offer your own differentiated OTT services. The key to such an initiative would be to come up with attractive price points that incentivize consumers to prefer your OTT service over the competition. Another experiment worth undertaking could be to offer such OTT services over both your mobile and fixed (Wi-Fi) networks. T-Mobile USA launched Bobsled, while Telefonica Digital introduced Tu Me–both offering free voice and text services. Likewise, Orange has entered the fray with its in-house service, called Libon.

Join hands with OTT counterparts

The motto here is ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’. Enable OTT companies and developers to extend interoperable telco services throughout your network, as well as across those of your partner carriers. Provide them with aggregated data on subscribers, device and network usage. This way, you can facilitate accelerated development of unique and consumer-friendly apps, resulting in delightful experiences. Axis, an Indonesian telecom operator, has partnered with Viber, allowing its subscribers to buy a Viber data service rather than a full-fledged data plan. The strategy is aimed at getting consumers comfortable with the idea of buying bundles from Axis.

Complement your partnerships with an effective, secure and reliable network that promotes seamless user experiences across various devices. Ultimately, this will translate into revenue growth and increased customer retention for you. A major factor determining success or failure on this front will be your ability to shift from merely providing services or apps to shipping effective APIs to developers.

Setting the right expectations

Be prepared for a long haul, when it comes to disrupting your own operating model for competing effectively against agile, innovative OTT operators. The first step in your journey must be to significantly ramp up your technology expertise. By leveraging your core competencies, and embracing new technologies based on software defined networks (SDN) and network function virtualization (NFV), you can offer diverse advanced connectivity services. It might also make eminent business sense for you to deliver cloud services to your customers, for simplifying storage and access to personal data and media.

Simultaneously, harness data analytics to better understand the ways customers access your network, as well as their usage context spanning locations and devices. Based on data-driven insights, you can fine tune your product development, sales, and marketing strategies accordingly, thus generating a higher return on investment.

Data is the new voice of your customers, and so it should be for you. By crafting truly innovative and engaging consumer experiences, while delivering real value for money, you can have a realistic shot at beating OTT operators in their own game. Are you ready?


Telco’s as an active OTT Player972

25 Nov

 Telco’s are facing a fierce attack from OTT players. They assumed that ignoring them would solve the problem but it’s getting more complicated!



Telcos urged to innovate data tariffs to counter OTT threat

24 Nov

At LTE North America in Dallas this week, a panel featuring Wireless 2020, IBM, Allot Communications and US-based MVNO FreedomPop urged the service provider community to develop more flexible and tailored data bundles for customers.

During a discussion focused on future revenue generation opportunities, conversation moved towards the current landscape which is seeing telcos lose ground to over the top content providers. Ken Jackson from IBM Now Factory believes that moving to specific and tailored, content-based services is a feasible opportunity for operators to monetise services in new ways.

“Let’s look at the example of a service called NFL Now, a friend of mine can watch as much NFL as he wants, and doesn’t pay for the data he uses, he pays to watch football,” he said. “We have to return the value proposition to the customer, find out what it is they want to do, and offer it to them. Make everything customer centric, and orchestrate your business around what they need”

Haig Sarkissian from Wireless 2020 concurred with Jackson, and urged the service provider community to move away from basic all-you-can-eat data plans.

“5% of the heaviest users consume 40-50% of the network, and they pay the same as the majority,” he said. “That’s why unlimited data plans are unfair, because the majority are subsidising the data usage of the minority. Operators find that this is no longer scalable because if you eat more you have to invest more into capacity. I don’t see it changing any time in the future, unless there’s a fair way of using these “dumb pipe” plans. Is there hope for SP differentiation outside of these unlimited data plans?”

Allot Communications’ John Priest said service delivery is becoming far more personalised and tailored than in the past, suggesting operators should have a think about how they allow users to access the information and the content they want.

“I think we need things like VAS for the customer to make them feel in control of what they need. It’s not just the volume, it’s about the content they want and delivering that to them. Users want to know what they’re consuming, so the SP has to know what they’re consuming and how they’re consuming it, so that you can be more proactive in the customer care and guarantee a higher quality of service.”

“But here are a couple of examples of opportunities for SPs to generate revenue aside from traditional voice and data pricing models. Sponsored data solutions, for example, sees the user get free data if they’re going to certain sites, which is a partnership between the SP and the content provider. Similarly to music streaming services, SPs can strike up a partnership with advertisers.”

US MVNO FreedomPop’s Mauricio Sastre suggested there are opportunities for partnerships between carriers, app developers and content providers, help users consume new applications for reduced costs, or for free.

“In an effort to get their app out there, the app developers are considering paying for the data that their app consumes, so there can be a subsidised way for users to consume their application.”

Of course, when debating content services over service provider networks, we naturally reach the inevitable pain point of net neutrality, Wireless 2020’s Sarkissian rounded of the discussion on such a note.

“When do we get into the net neutrality debate, the big elephant in the room? Do you decide to charge more for content from Netflix, or NFL Now, or WebRTC services?” he said. “In my opinion, any resource that’s finite, and has the potential to be fully consumed, should be left alone from regulation. Otherwise you jeopardise the investment into, and the competition of, all of these services.”


Telephony – Telco service or Internet application?

9 Jun


When comparing different forms of VoIP, one risk comparing “apples and oranges”. Broadly speaking, we can divide VoIP into two main categories. First, the service can be implemented as a faithful copy of circuit switched telephony; in a network with full control over performance and quality. Second, VoIP can be implemented as a standalone application used over the open Internet.

Originally published in NetworkWorld Norway.


3GPP and IMS

3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Project) has played an important role when VoIP has become a recognised substitute for traditional telephony among telecom operators. 3GPP standardises the mobile technologies 2G, 3G and 4G, and they have done so based on the general IP technology standardised by IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force).

At first 3GPP concentrated on developing mobile networks as an evolving telecommunications architecture, following a vertically integrated model for provision of telephony. As the Internet revolution influenced the telecom market, the focus has shifted more towards IP-based services of various kinds.

IP networks and the Internet are not equivalent concepts. As IP technology was introduced in the mobile architecture, this was done in a way that maintained telecommunications networks’ support for QoS (Quality of Service). They had a clear view to continue provision of telecom services, as opposed to Internet applications, but based on a new IP-based network.

The service platform which was standardised as part of the mobile architecture was named IMS (IP Multimedia Subsystem). IMS is based on SIP (Session Initiation Protocol), the VoIP protocol from IETF, but extended with a comprehensive architecture for QoS. IMS has an “open” interface for service development, but requires a business agreement with the mobile operator. So this is a completely different kind of openness than the one found on the Internet where “everyone” can develop their own services.


The basic mobile architecture has undergone a tremendous development by 3GPP. Now we are in a phase where LTE (Long Term Evolution) is being adopted, often referred to as 4G despite the fact that it is not “real” 4G. LTE is the first 3GPP architecture that has eliminated the circuit switched domain, appearing as a pure IP network. Therefore there are great expectations for VoIP in this architecture, a functionality called VoLTE (Voice over LTE).

The transition from traditional telephony to VoIP has been going on for a long time. In mobile networks this has taken longer than expected. IMS has been around as a part of the mobile architecture for many years already. Furthermore, VoLTE includes options that could still delay this transition; LTE phones will initially combine LTE with older mobile technologies, allowing telephones to fall back to these older technologies. There is also a quasi-solution that transports traditional telecom protocols encapsulated in IP packets, so-called VoLGA (Voice over LTE via Generic Access).

The telecom industry also promotes advanced VoIP services that can stimulate the transition from traditional telephony and SMS to IP-based “equivalents” called RCS (Rich Communication Services). RCS provides services such as voice and video telephony, presence, instant messages and more, integrated in a unified user client for mobile phones that will provide seamless user experience of multimedia communication.

RCS is based on the IMS platform using SIP and SIMPLE (SIP for Instant Messaging and Presence Leveraging Extensions). Thus, the basis of this is IETF protocols, but implemented in an architecture that is intended to replicate the telecom network in the shape of an IP-based multimedia network. RCS is promoted by GSMA (GSM Association) and OMA (Open Mobile Alliance). OMA is the descendant of the WAP Forum, if there are still some who remember WAP.

QoS and Policy Control

RCS seems like an impressive technology, and what is the big deal? What distinguishes this from the applications that are already in use on the Internet? A major difference is that RCS can benefit directly from the mobile network built-in mechanisms for QoS. But it is difficult to predict what will give the best user experience, multimedia services integrated in the mobile architecture or free choice among different applications offered over the Internet.

A well-known characteristic of the Internet is that it is “best effort” and can’t guarantee the quality of the communication. In the mobile architecture, QoS is a key feature across the entire design. The underlying IP network will typically be based on DiffServ (Differentiated Services) and MPLS (Multiprotocol Label Switching), both well-known technologies from IETF supporting traffic management and QoS.

In the LTE architecture, QoS is policed by a function called PCC (Policy and Charging Control). As the name suggests, not unnaturally, management of QoS and charging are two sides of the same coin. PCC controls establishment of user sessions with various performance levels, and charging information is generated based to the capacity used by the different sessions.

Initially, IMS was specified for mobile networks, but in retrospect it has been found very useful extending the scope to include fixed networks, giving a combo solution which is often referred as NGN (Next Generation Networks). This facilitates convergence between fixed and mobile networks (Fixed-Mobile Convergence).

Over-the-top (OTT)

The traditional telcos are operating in a market that is completely changed because of the Internet. This leads to a situation where the business that telecom players envision, is facing strong competition from Internet players. The Internet model is based on decoupling of applications from the network layer, as opposed to the telecom model that relies on the services that are vertically integrated with the network.

Innovative solutions that can be used “over-the-top” without specific facilitation from telecom operators, enables virtually unlimited choices for end users. Internet applications, even real-time applications such as VoIP, work fairly well without the quality architecture of NGN. Congestion control mechanisms regulate traffic load of the Internet, sharing the available capacity between users.

However, users’ choice is not easy. Such innovative solutions in some cases evolve into isolated “islands” that are not compatible with each other. Major players are trying to create their own closed ecosystems consisting of operating systems or app stores for example. On the other hand, some traditional telecom operators introduce OTT solutions to meet the competition, making use of similar means.

The future will show which model is most adaptable. Net neutrality is tasked to ensure that the Internet model can develop freely. Meanwhile, the Norwegian guidelines for net neutrality are balanced, allowing the telecom model to evolve in parallel. This is often referred to as “specialised services”, as opposed to the Internet access service that works as a general electronic communication service.


Blurred lines: are network planning and network optimization merging?

3 Mar

Here is the worst-kept secret in the entire telecoms industry:  small cells are going to play a critical role in network evolutions over the next several years. A lesser-known reality is that, as a direct consequence of the growing number of small cells deployments, the lines between network planning and network optimization are blurring. They will no longer be two separate, distinct processes handled by different teams. Instead, they will become one process – network planning and optimization – as they are inextricably linked. This unified process will act as a foundation for a more proactive and agile approach to managing mobile networks, with small cell deployments at the heart of it all.

There once was a good reason for the distinction between network planning and network optimization — the workflows were based around different sets of engineering software that often required a long series of manual steps. The focus was mainly on delivering network coverage to high-paying customers and reactive issue resolution. Today, we see a different story. The main goal for network planning and optimization efforts is to help mobile operators cost-effectively deliver the quality of experience (QoE) that customers expect in order to reduce churn. Mobile operators also need to match rapidly changing customer demands with adequate capacity. They face the dual challenge of managing the evolution to large, multi-technology networks while also controlling OPEX costs. As network complexity increases, mobile operators need unified systems rather than individual tools for specific tasks — systems that provide properly synchronized network data and plans across multiple technologies, and instant and accurate views of network coverage, quality and performance throughout the whole network lifecycle.

Mobile networks are evolving at a rapid-fire pace unlike anything we have ever seen before because subscriber expectations and demands for data are increasing like never before. While dealing with the challenges associated with constant network evolution, it is important to remember that this is actually a very good thing. Mobile operators have been raising the bar in terms of quality of service (QoS) and QoE to better serve their customers. As a result, subscribers are using more mobile data and expecting fewer service interruptions. They continue to raise their own expectations, and while the ever-growing adoption of mobile services in society is a great cause for celebration, it also means that there’s no time for mobile operators to rest on their laurels — especially when over-the-top (OTT) services threaten their revenues.

With the right platform, mobile operators and RF engineering teams can get direct access to up-to-date network intelligence, allowing them to automatically generate usage and coverage simulations based on current network intelligence. The network planning and optimization process can be streamlined so that new capacity and technology deployments are made strategically, at the right times and in the right places. This allows operators to leverage predicted traffic loads based on the traffic development in the network, and gives them the opportunity to identify evolving hotspots and prevent issues in the network before they are noticed by subscribers. Such a proactive approach is critical if mobile operators expect to improve QoE and stand out among their competition, while improved accuracy in network analyses and shorter turnaround time leads to both CAPEX and OPEX savings.

Like I mentioned earlier, customer expectations are growing, and as network technologies advance and networks become more complex, the network planning and optimization processes will become one and the same.

So where do small cells fit into all of this? While micro, pico and femto cells have been around for a while, it’s only in the last few years that small cells have really risen to prominence as a tool for mobile operators to substantially expand their network capacity and improve their coverage. Operators in all markets are showing interest in various small cells solutions, spanning from residential solutions to large deployments of outdoor metro cells. For example, mobile operators in Korea have focused early on LTE small cells, while major US carriers like Verizon and AT&T have outlined their plans to deploy large numbers of small cells in 2014 and beyond, and others are guaranteed to follow suit.

We already know that small cells are capable of expanding network capacity and coverage, in turn enabling operators to deliver a better level of service and user experience, provided they are used in an efficient manner. Analysys Mason estimates that moving forward three to four small cells will be deployed per macro cell and other estimates go even higher. And there’s the link between network planning and optimization and small cells. Small cells and heterogeneous networks (HetNets) will be much more complicated to manage and, without a unified network planning and optimization approach, OPEX will skyrocket. Essentially, the prevalence of small cells is causing the lines between network planning and network optimization to blur, making a single, unified process all the more critical.

The reality is that mobile technologies and networks are constantly evolving. There isn’t a beginning and an end in the traditional sense. And, no matter how well operators plan their networks, the need for network optimization will always exist as subscriber bases grow, their usage behaviors change and their expectations increase. This non-stop evolution means that network planning and optimization must be an ongoing endeavor following a strategy that is regularly updated to address increasing subscriber expectations and technology enhancements operators are facing.

This brings us back to the relationship between network planning, network optimization and small cells. Small cells are one of the best solutions available today for mobile operators to expand their networks and simultaneously improve QoS and QoE for their customers. But, in order to reap those benefits, mobile operators must unite the siloed network planning and network optimization tools into a single network planning and optimization system that engineering teams can use to fuel the strategic deployment of small cells.


Telecoms & Media’s top predictions for 2014

22 Jan

Informa Telecoms & Media today revealed its predictions and trends for 2014 for the telecoms and media sectors.

Telecoms operator consolidation will be a recurring theme throughout 2014. In addition to in-market consolidation – Informa Telecoms & Media is seeing a slow but steady transition to three-operator mobile markets – they expect to see regional and global telecoms operator groups entering into discussions and potential deals. One potential move in particular would significantly change the telecoms landscape. AT&T’s reported interest in Vodafone has echoes of US telcos’ expansion into European cable TV and mobile markets in the 1990s. Those European forays brought mixed success.

The telecoms business generally will see a further refinement of operator strategy towards OTT players and diversification. Rather than trying to build separate digital businesses for the consumer market, telecoms operators will increasingly focus on bundling digital content, communications services and publications with their core services. New revenue opportunities will be around selling connectivity – both on a retail and wholesale basis – to devices such as tablets and in cars.

Video and streaming will be two important themes in the media and entertainment business in 2014. The World Cup will be the first where live, streamed viewing captures a significant share of total viewing. And in music, streaming revenues will grow rapidly at the expense of downloads.

Highlights from Informa Telecoms & Media 2014 predictions:

  • A pursuit of Vodafone will be expensive and risky for AT&T
    When Vodafone completes the sale of its stake in Verizon Wireless to Verizon in February, we expect AT&T to make initial approaches with a view to bidding for the entirety of the company. But we are not convinced that – if successful with its courtship – AT&T will find that married life is a bed of roses. US mobile operators AT&T Wireless and Verizon Wireless are brimming with confidence because of their successful LTE launches. They see LTE as a game changer and as the driver for the Internet of Things (IoT). But the European perspective is different. Operators there are struggling to charge a premium over 3G for LTE and it is not seen as being of fundamental importance for IoT and M2M where connectivity will only capture a small part of future value. Furthermore, Vodafone’s shares have appreciated by 24% over the last six months and a significant premium will be needed to persuade shareholders to sell. Informa believes that AT&T may be better advised to strengthen its position in the US fixed and converged market rather than pursuing Vodafone.
  • Bluetooth will drive innovation and growth in IoT and mobile commerce
    Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) will come to the fore as a key technology driver for new mobile services and applications in 2014. In mobile commerce, Apple’s iBeacon, PayPal’s Beacon and other BLE services like them will become widespread as an ecosystem of hardware and service providers grows around the BLE technology incorporated into iOS and Android devices. BLE’s potential to deliver a more effortless and truly contactless way of paying in-store makes it a particularly compelling technology – and a potential NFC killer.

Bluetooth Smart combines the power efficiency of BLE with the functionality of lightweight software “profiles” which specify how sensors of a certain type should perform using BLE. There is an ever-increasing list of profiles being written to enable an ever-increasing variety of application-specific, sensor-based devices – from heart-rate monitors, to door locks, to treadmills. At the start of 2014, there were more than 160 Bluetooth Smart devices in production, divisible into more than 70 different categories of device type. This astonishing level of innovation will only increase during 2014.

  • New ‘connected tablet’ business models will emerge
    The relatively low proportion of tablets that are connected to cellular networks is a major disappointment to the mobile industry. Despite the rapid growth in volume of shipments, only a small percentage – approximately 20% – of these devices connect to the macro cellular network meaning that a huge opportunity for access revenues is being lost. In 2014, we will finally see a number of new initiatives to sell more “cellular” tablets. These will often involve the use of MVNO-type business models. We see a new hybrid wholesale model emerging. In some cases, OEMs will purchase wholesale data and bundling the cost of access into the device. In other cases, mobile operators will create “ready to sell” white-label packages for OEMs.
  • Three’s company, four’s a crowd
    A consensus is emerging in the mobile communications industry that three is the optimum number of mobile operators for any given market. A number of countries in Europe (Germany, Austria, Ireland) have already started to move towards the three-operator paradigm but in other parts of the world too (the US, Colombia), proposed and actual mergers and takeovers will result in the creation of three strong players. In 2014, national regulators will play a crucial role in determining whether to give the green light to market consolidation. Informa Telecoms & Media believes that regulators are now warming to the idea that three-operator markets – plus competition from mobile virtual network operators – provide the right balance between maximizing competition and building sustainable mobile sectors.
  • Telcos will give up trying to be like OTT communications companies
    The window of opportunity for telecoms operators to develop “copycat” OTT voice and messaging services has closed. Such is the dominance of OTT service providers such as WhatsApp and Skype that it is extremely difficult for any new providers to develop similar propositions unless they offer new features and capabilities. Telefonica closed down its TuMe in 2013 and other similar operator initiatives are struggling to gain traction. Rather than building services that are designed to compete with OTT service providers, we expect to see operators developing OTT capabilities and services for their existing customers. 2014 will also be a crucial year in the future of Joyn, the OTT-like service that has been launched by a number of operators in Europe and Asia. Unless operators can demonstrate strong take-up for their services, it will be difficult to persuade device vendors that they need to include Joyn capabilities in their new models.
  • Telco mobile wallet initiatives will flicker but ultimately fail
    2014 will see a proliferation of mobile wallets in developed markets, especially Europe, and largely led by mobile operators. Most of these wallets will be prepaid and focused on NFC payments. But we predict that the year will close without any operator-wallet success stories. The operator wallets that have been launched in the West so far have yet to make an impact and in early January the UK operator Telefonica O2 announced that it was closing its mobile-wallet service because of poor take-up. Banks and payment brands such as PayPal are much more likely to gain traction with mobile wallets. The operators can only hope that there will be a role for them as enablers, charging fees to secure mobile payment transactions via SIMs.
  • Tablets, wearables and the cloud will make out-of-home content rights even hotter in 2014
    With wearables, tablets and cloud storage dominating headlines for video consumption, the missing element has always been the rights to the quality content. Many 3-5 year rights deals finish in 2014 and new deals will include “Internet” and “out-of-home” access to content. In an ideal world, these rights will be acquired by existing consumer TV services and allow seamless integration with TV and in-home viewing.
  • “Ephemeral media” will be offered by well-known content creators
    “Ephemeral media”– i.e. content with a short shelf life, such as that spread via Snapchat – has been associated with user-generated content but in 2014 it will be offered by some well-known content creators and distributors as a way of creating scarcity amid the firehose of new content. It will cause temporary panic among traditional content players which still hope (as with UltraViolet) that users will treat digital content in the same way we treated physical media. They won’t.
  • Small cells will come to the aid of congested LTE networks
    In late 2013, Verizon Wireless, the world’s largest LTE operator, admitted that it was starting to see pockets of congestion in major cities. In 2014, other “early” LTE networks, particularly those that operate in the lower (700MHz) frequency bands will start to face congestion. Those operators that have secured higher frequencies will start to use them to deploy public-area small cells in 2014. These deployments will provide critical operational and practical lessons for the whole industry, as power, backhaul, planning and maintenance issues are still to be completely solved for mass-market small cells. Operators that do not have immediate access to spectrum – either through auctions or refarming – may end up in a seriously challenged position.
  • Service providers will bundle digital publications into their broadband offerings
    Not all broadband providers can follow the lead of UK incumbent BT by spending huge sums on exclusive TV sports rights. But in order to attract and retain broadband customers, especially in mature markets where churn is a more pressing issue, we expect ISPs to partner with publishers to include subscriptions to newspaper services, magazines and e-books, as well as music and video services, in their broadband offerings in 2014.


What’s Holding Us Back From True TV Everywhere?

20 Jan
 multi TV

The ability to watch TV programming at any time and on any device goes by many names: “TV Everywhere,” “Video Anywhere” and, for industry insiders, “multiscreen TV.”

Whatever you choose to call it, we’re all familiar with the equation: An explosion of mobile devices + more and more content = lots of people watching lots of content all over the place. Adding to this phenomenon is the widespread popularity of online video services like Netflix and Hulu, which have helped train consumers to watch mainstream TV content on things other than their TV sets.

This evolution is far from over. Although there are plenty of consumers logging in to watch the latest episode of “Saturday Night Live” from their Xboxes, and streaming last night’s Braves game on their phones, the mainstreaming of this behavior can and should be happening even faster. With device penetration and TV watching (278 minutes per day, according to eMarketer) at all-time highs, there is little to hold the movement back. A few changes from content owners and service providers are all that’s needed to open the floodgates. Here’s my take on what those changes are:

Consumer education

This may seem like a no-brainer and, indeed, it’s one of the simplest barriers to overcome. Even with all of the technical investments programmers and operators have poured into TV Everywhere initiatives, many cable subscribers simply don’t know that they have access to online or VOD services. In addition to better marketing around these services, technicians should be trained to give new customers an overview during installations or repairs.

The user experience

Watching TV is an inherently lean-back experience, and yet, too many on-demand and multiscreen options require technical prowess or the patience to sift through endless programming options. The bottom line is that viewers are willing to lean forward a little for these kinds of services, but not much. It’s incumbent upon operators and programmers to keep the barrier to entry low, and access as frictionless as possible. Improving the user interface is essential, as well, particularly when it comes to discovery tools that make it easy to find new content.

Consistent access to content

From a consumer perspective, the current content landscape often appears fragmented and indecipherable. Sometimes shows appear instantly on on-demand platforms and sometimes they take months to show up. Content appears and then disappears for no discernible reason. Some seasons of your favorite show are available, and some are not. The need here is simple: In order to keep viewers coming back for more, it’s essential that the content they want is available when and where they want it. This requires a significant shift in the way the industry does business. Instead of complex content agreements that keep viewing rights siloed across different screens, we need to move toward multiscreen agreements that bring predictability to the windowing process.

Evolving viewer behavior

It’s no secret that OTT (over-the-top content) companies like Netflix and Hulu have wrought some chaos in the cable industry by changing consumers’ expectations and viewing habits. Ultimately, however, the industry needs to embrace this change and start experimenting with new ways to map to new patterns of behavior. For example, in a recent column, MediaPost contributor P.J. Bednarski suggested that CBS should let viewers binge on six episodes of its new show “Hostages” online before the show officially aired — this would create buzz around the show and ultimately drive both multiscreen and linear viewing.

Similarly, consumer appetite for nonlinear content is at an all-time high. As VideoNuze’s Will Richmond points out when describing his experience as a “Breaking Bad” fan, social media has had the effect of driving interest in shows that have already been on the air for one or more seasons. Today, most viewers go to Netflix to binge on shows, instead of on their VOD services, which typically house just the last few episodes. This is a major miss for the industry, and an easy way to drive multiscreen viewing.

Technical Infrastructure Investment

Making large libraries of video content available across every screen, platform and device is a daunting task for programmers and service providers. There are immense logistical and technical challenges involved with pushing out content in multiple formats in a timely way and in line with consumer expectations. Ultimately, this requires investments in both in-house technology and from third-party vendors that enable programmers and operators to easily scale their operations and roll out to new devices in the future. The key is to start putting resources into this now, and ensuring that the infrastructure is ready to handle future changes in consumer behavior, new device rollouts, etc. The TV Everywhere landscape is moving incredibly fast, and it’s impossible to predict what things will look like more than a few years out. The ability to easily adapt to these changes will be the hallmark of all successful companies.

Investment in TV Everywhere takes a long-term view that puts a premium on keeping current customers happy, particularly younger members of a household for whom multiscreen viewing is second nature. A recent report from Needham Insights predicts that TV Everywhere initiatives might ultimately save the industry $4.2 billion for each year that they elongate would-be cord cutters’ subscriptions. That’s right: $4.2 billion. These kinds of figures put into perspective how important is it to address these issues now, and to ensure that cable subscribers aren’t tempted to go elsewhere to meet their multiscreen needs. In order for TV Everywhere to be successful, it’s imperative that the cable industry moves from a place of reaction to one of action. Together, we need to address, enable and encourage changing consumer behavior, rather than passively accepting it.



IMS deployments to reach US$4b by 2017

9 Jan

abi researchIMS Core Network deployments are edging up as operators put the necessary infrastructure and capacity in place for planned 2014 VoLTE launches, according to ABI Research.

Spending for the core network products (HSS, CSC, Media Controllers and Gateways, MSF, IBCF, SBC and P-CSCF) integral to a functioning IMS network will reach US$4 billion by 2017. “We see increasing IMS Core Network revenues through 2017, after which IMS revenues will flatten and reflect capacity expansion,” said Joe Hoffman, Research Director of ABI Research.

IMS spending for mobile 4G markets follows the LTE deployments, as operators seek to get their network coverage in place, stabilised, and compatible mobiles for VoLTE become available. The leading LTE market, North America, will peak 2015 to 2016, while the largest market, Asia-Pacific shows continued growth into the foreseeable future.

Virtualisation will be widespread since much of the IMS solution is delivered on x86 architecture and works on bare metal or virtualised platforms.

While the IMS driver is clearly VoLTE, operators will also find competitive advantage with a standardized, network-integrated solution that can also deliver superior user experience for WebRTC and OTT services under network congestion.

“Many operators will take a wait-and-see attitude as they already have 3G and CSFB for voice, but they will quickly comprehend the monetisation advantage with 4G and Voice, and adjust their strategies,” said Hoffman.

Simply put, the whole world is moving to all-IP, and 4G / IMS / VoLTE is the standard migration path for Telecom.


VoLTE winners and losers

15 Oct
VoLTE winners and losers
AT&T said this week that it expects to have a voice-over-LTE (VoLTE) smartphone by the holidays, and Verizon has also said that it will launch a VoLTE phone this year. Analysts say the move to VoLTE will be gradual, and will definitely benefit some players more than others.Verizon vs. AT&T: The GSM advantage

Verizon Wireless and AT&T Mobility have both said they will turn on VoLTE during 2014, but AT&T has an advantage as a GSM carrier. “A 3GPP carrier like AT&T or T-Mobile can implement VoLTE market by market and it will play well with circuit switched voice,” said Roger Entner, lead analyst at Recon Analytics. “If you are a legacy CDMA provider you have to wait until your entire footprint is LTE before you can do VoLTE.” VoLTE is not backwards-compatible with CDMA, so a VoLTE call will drop if a Verizon subscriber loses an LTE connection.

But Verizon Wireless is getting close to the LTE coverage it needs to achieve in order to turn on VoLTE. The carrier is expected to roll out a number of heavily subsidized VoLTE handsets in 2014.

Squeezing more out of spectrum

Many carriers find that data transmission is already consuming as much as 85% of their spectrum, meaning that the spectrum left over for voice transmission needs to be used as efficiently as possible.

“As we move to VoLTE carriers can realize 30-40% more spectral efficiency compared to 3G,” said Entner. “That is a welcome recovery of valuable spectrum that was lost when we went from 2G to 3G, where we have created a standard that was less voice efficient.” Entner explains that VoLTE requires less call set-up data than 3G, leaving more spectrum that can be used for actual data transmission.

VoLTE takes advantage of the multiple antennas used at the transmitter and the receiver in an LTE connection. “The great thing about LTE is you’re using MIMO, and with MIMO you’ve created separate channels so you’re getting this improvement, effectively creating a new channel,” said John Hoadley, CTO for wireless at Taqua. “You’re getting more bits through in a given amount of spectrum just in terms of spatial multi-plexing.”

But Hoadley believes that carriers may see limited impact from VoLTE when it comes to the rate at which they can transmit voice, because the spectrum available for voice calls is in decline. “It probably would be generous to say that voice is 15% of the bits that are going through wireless networks now, and that’s decreasing every quarter,” said Hoadley. “So I think carriers will challenged, because you’re getting a 30% improvement, but only for about 15% of your bits.”

Not all spectrum is created equal

Carriers who invested in 700MHz and 800MHz spectrum will see big payoffs with VoLTE, according to Hoadley. “If you get bands like that, you’re going to have spectacular coverage in-building and you’ll have excellent ability to deliver VoLTE through your entire market,” he said. “The other folks who are having to live at 1800 or 2600 or AWS spectrum, and that’s the only bands they have, in areas where they don’t have a super high density of cells, they’re going to have challenges. So not every carrier is created equal.”

Carriers vs. OTT: voice as data

On an LTE network, voice will be treated as data, making VoLTE calls similar to VoIP calls. That could be bad news for current “over-the-top” voice and video providers offering service over mobile networks.

“The business model will have a major reverse disruptive effect on those over-the-top Internet players that have for years been pounding on the carriers,” said Shahid Ahmed, network practice lead for Accenture in North America. “I think it will enable the carriers to really go head-to-head against all these over-the-top players that we’ve been seeing over the last two or three years .. whether its WhatsApp or variants of Skype that are out there.”

Not only will VoLTE help carriers compete with OTT players; it will also create new opportunities for innovation. “As voice becomes a data application it opens up opportunities to integrate voice in a greater way than ever before,” said Roger Entner. “In the same way that smartphones and 3G data have unleashed the application revolution and creative juices got flowing here, I think we will see another wave of innovation coming where voice becomes much more seamlessly integrated into applications than ever before.”

Treating voice as data could eventually eliminate the need for a circuit-switched network altogether. “Right now we have to run a packet-switched data network and a circuit-switched voice network, and with VoLTE you can simplify that,” said Entner. “When everything becomes one network it will become much easier to run and organize.”

Mobile customers: the biggest winners?

Carriers are determined to make sure that mobile subscribers do not perceive any degradation in call quality when VoLTE launches, due to dropped calls or botched handoffs. Analysts say the industry is taking its time to make sure VoLTE launches smoothly. The stakes are high, because VoLTE has a lot to offer subscribers as well as carriers.

“It’s going to be a whole new ballgame and we know who will win, it’s the consumer,” said Entner. “With VoLTE, where voice becomes a data application, the integration opportunities that exist can only be paralleled with the early dawn of apps on cell phones. Whoever has the most creative ideas and the most innovative implementations will win, and the consumers will flock to it.”


How to Watch TV over the Internet

11 Oct


Television started out as a luxury, but by-and-by, it has become more of a utility for most Americans.  Up there with electricity, telephone and internet, it’s something many people don’t want to live without.  However, when it comes to watching television, more and more folks (400,000 last year) are cutting their cable and opting for internet-based television for a fraction of the cost.  It’s easy and cheap.  All you need is:

  1. TV
  2. High-speed internet connection with a wireless router
  3. Over-the-top (OTT) streaming device.

There are numerous options for the latter, including, but not limited to:


The latest OTT device to cause a stir is called Chromecast.  With the look of a USB memory stick and the heart of a Roku or Apple TV, it’s a gateway to content like Netflix, Hulu, Youtube and all the internet has to offer.  And with a price tag of around $35, it’s not hard to get your hands on one either.

The catch?  You need:

  1. an HDTV
  2. some device to control it (laptop, tablet, or smartphone)

Some say it’s lagging behind in the content department, although you’re able to mirror onto your TV anything you can bring up on your laptop (in your Chrome browser), so there seems to be a relatively easy work-around for almost everything.  It started out as a Netflix and Youtube heavy device, but HuluVimeoRedbox Instant and others have recently jumped on the bandwagon.

To find the OTT device that’s right for you, check out this grid that outlines the features of some of the most common device options (click to enlarge):


Cordova Telephone Cooperative currently sells 3 versions of the Roku player and Apple TV.  For more information, is always a great resource, and you can also check out our website at


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